Valentine's Day 2006
I knew it wasn't going to be easy. In fact, I was terrified in a way that I had never felt before. I was all dressed up in my brand new salwaar suit, hair neatly pulled back into a clip, with barely a shred of makeup on my face. My fiance was recounting the plot of some Bollywood film he'd seen years ago just so he could keep himself from thinking. I was staring out the window looking at the shops with my thoughts flying past and then coming to a dead halt. This could be the beginning of my new life, or it could be a colossal disaster.
We were in a taxi on the way to his parents' home. We were hoping to get their blessings for our marriage. A firang and the good baby son of every-day, working, middle-class Kannadigas. Who would have thought? Well, certainly not his parents when he told them less than a month before my arrival. They bargained, they argued, they ignored. They persuaded, they cried, they stonewalled. But the day had arrived. I was real, and I was coming for tea at 3 PM sharp.
Everyone knew it wasn't really a friendly kind of visit. There would be no friendly banter, no cheerful "getting to know you" banter. It was an audition. It was a chess game. Both sides felt they had a lot to lose, and no one knew exactly what to expect.
The taxi arrived at the compound gate. I wiped the sweat from my upper lip, got out of the car and adjusted my dupatta. I saw heads pop out from terraces all down the block, and I felt the humid air grow still. The door opened and we were invited inside. I stepped over some faded rangoli and entered a darkened hallway.
I wanted to look around, take in the childhood home of the man I was in love with. I had pictured this place in my mind so often, and it was nothing like I had imagined. There were pictures in the showcase, and I wanted to see them desperately, but this was not the time to get up and explore. My fiance spoke in Kannada asking his mom to come out from the kitchen. His father sat at the table with perfect posture in his shirt and dhoti. He looked kind enough, but he was not smiling. I sat in a small but comfortable chair, and my fiance sat in an identical one. We were separated by an end table that held two old phones and a bronze Nataraja.
The mother came out with tea, and she would not meet my eyes. We all held our metal tumblers and sipped in silence. I was almost overcome with a desire to run right out the door, past the small but neatly kept garden and back out to the main road where I could surely find an auto.
Finally the father spoke, and the interrogation began. He asked about divorce in my family, and my education. He asked about my views on marriage, how I argue, my religion, my flexibility with change, my work history. He asked about my ability to cook and my views on non-veg food in the home. He never once moved from his position at the table except to cross and uncross his legs, and his expression never changed.
He asked about our plans for children, so my fiance and I spoke about how we planned to raise children while honoring both cultures. I explained that I was already from a multi-cultural background, and so while there were certainly things to take into consideration, it was not impossible. The mother remained silent, and looked out the window, the pallu of her sari folded neatly around her like a shield. She asked me nothing, and seemed to not even be paying attention. Then the father asked "How do you think this will work?"
"I am going to move here." I said resolutely. This was solution that clearly neither parent had considered. There was a very heavy pause. The mother seemed to hold her breath while the father breathed a long sigh, stood up and held out both hands with his palms turned upward.
"OK then!" he said, smiling. "You seem to have thought this through. Anything you need, you let us know. We will help to pay for the wedding if you require it." The mother's eyes darted at him in disbelief. I could tell that she had not counted on this turn of events. And now it was done, he had given his blessings. It could not be undone. He said namaskara, and excused himself. It was time for pooja. There was nothing more to discuss.
The mother walked us to the door. I thanked her for her hospitality, and told her I would see her soon. She said something to her mystified son as I walked into the garden, head spinning. I watched the people on the terraces lean back out to watch us go. The maid, who had been silently listening from the back of the house, ran off through the gate to go spread the amazing news.
It was done. I was getting married. I looked up at the hazy Bangalore sky and smirked a quick thank you at God.
Valentine's Day 2006
- » Published on February 12, 2009
- » Type: Opinion
- » Filed under: